Skip to comments.Making Babies: A Very Different Look at Natural Family Planning
Posted on 02/14/2005 1:51:26 PM PST by Diago
Making Babies: A Very Different Look at Natural Family Planning By H. W. Crocker III
Natural family planning (NFP) needs a slogan, because as a productif I might adopt business-speakits not selling too well. According to some surveys, about 90 percent of professed Catholics reject the Churchs teaching on birth control. Even among priests, fewer than one in three considers artificial contraception to be always sinful.
So let me propose a new rallying cry: Use NFP: It Doesnt Work!
You think I jest.
The case for NFP should, by rights, be the case for more babies. To have them is good. Not to have them is to be deprived. Every wife deserves to be a mother, and every mothers son deserves a brother and a sister. And since a cat-o-nine-tails has nine tails, surely having nine children is the proper way to scourge selfishness right out of ones family.
As a slogan, Use NFP: It Doesnt Work! has many strong arguments in its favor. First, it is true. NFP proponents tout its 99 percent effectiveness rate, but they neglect to mention that this is true only if the husband is in the Navy and assigned to extended, uninterrupted sea duty of three-year tours or longer. Otherwise, for most Catholics I know, NFP means a baby every two years or so, though the rate can slow with age, as the couples learn a proper respectthat is, fearfor each other and are too tired in any event for what Catholics call the conjugal act.
Now I know there will be inevitable protests and testimonials by those who swear by NFP. And who am I to say that my own experience is not colored by the fact that I am excessively virile? Indeed, there is plenty of evidence that this is the case.
But another reason for NFPs allegedly high success rate is that couples who use it are prepared to welcome children and so dont blame NFP for unexpected pregnancies. Four of my own five children came the NFP waythat is, totally unexpectedlyand thats a good thing, because without them bouncing in as surprises, excuses to delay (the sort of excuses one might hear from a recruit in parachute training) might have gone on for a very long time. As it is, in a mere matter of ten years, my wife and I assembled a complete basketball team. And if menopause doesnt strike my wife soon, who knows what sort of team we might assemble.
Rather than bite ones nails to the quick at the prospect of baby number tenwhich, if one marries in ones early 20s and practices NFP, is a definite possibilitywe should encourage the attitude of the more the merrier, which is a far more attractive case to make than all the goo-goo language about how NFP helps couples communicate and about the joy of charting temperatures and discharges and plotting ones conjugal acts as a captain might chart a course for his ship.
Frankly, as far as Im concerned, the charts can be thrown away (whats so natural about them?). And to hell with improving communication as a dogmatic defense of NFP. For men, the whole point of marriage is to avoid communicating; all that dating conversation stuff can finally be foregone. Married communication, as successful husbands know, is best limited to grunts and hand signalsone upraised finger meaning, I need a beer; two upraised fingers meaning, You need to change the brats diapers; three upraised fingers meaning, Honey, why dont you mow the lawn while I watch football?, and so on. No words are more doom-laden than a wifes sitting down and saying, Lets talk. Communication is, of course, the first step toward divorce.
Tom Hoopes pointed out in a recent issue of crisis that there are no apparent data to support the widely touted statistic that only 2 percent of NFP couples divorce [see Letters, page 8]. If there is any validity to this number, I suspect it lies in the fact that NFP couples have no time to communicate. The husband has to hold down several jobs to pay the familys bills, and a wife with little ones barely has time to shower, let alone talk to her husband, save to pass a pregnancy test result across the breakfast table through splodges of spilt porridge as she sighs, & 2000 #8220;Heres another fine mess youve gotten me into.
I grant you, there is one form of communication that NFP certainly does advanceit makes a public statement. Not so very long ago, I was invited to speak at a Confederate Memorial Service. There I was with my Robert E. Lee tie, my wife (a blond California beach babe) wearing a Confederate battle flag scarf, and the five little members of our own Critter Company lined up in a row. A friendly chap meandered over and told us, apropos of nothing, My daughters a Catholic, too. Three kids.
No need for a secret handshake. Kids tell the story.
As a slogan, Use NFP: It Doesnt Work! puts the focus where it belongson babiesand away from a technique, a technique that wrongly strikes most lay Catholics as medieval. If only it were medieval, then it would be effective: a sturdy, padlocked, handsomely designed, pewter chastity belt.
Instead, NFP is shiny, modern, and scientific, as its advocates are always quick to emphasize. In his book The Truth of Catholicism, George Weigel approvingly quotes several paragraphs from a woman in love with NFP. She reminds us that:
Natural Family Planning is not the justly ridiculed rhythm method, which involves vaguely guessing when the woman expects to ovulate and abstaining for a few days around day fourteen of her cycle. The full method involves charting a womans waking temperatures, changes in cervical fluid, and the position of the cervix.
Nothing unnatural or artificial about that, is there? Her raptures climax with NFP apparently transformed into Narcissism For Pleasure:
But the turning point came for me as I watched, month after month, as my temperature rose and fell and my hormones marched in perfect harmony. I had no idea I was so beautiful. I found myself near tears one day looking at my chart and thinking, Truly, I am fearfully and wonderfully made. My fertility is not a disease to be treated. It is a wonderful gift. I am a wonderful gift.
Er, if you say so, missy. If my wife talked like this, Id have her committed. Happily, my wife, bless her heart, takes a more robust line: Barefoot and pregnant is better than high-heeled and professional! Thats the spirit!
There is no shortage of people wandering around these days thinking they are wonderful gifts. In fact, there are rather too many of themand they shouldnt be encouraged. Whats lacking are married couples who think that having a family big enough to fill up a minivan (or for the younger, stronger, and more ambitious, a small bus or modified hearse) is a wonderful gift.
A neighboring priest has noted how many young married women these days are without children but doting over dogs. One suspects that such women are less in need of NFP training than they are of a push into motherhood (and thereby full-fledged adulthood) with a reminder that children are what marriage and life are all about.
So rather than focusing on NFP, premarital preparation should go like this:
Father OCounselor: Now I want you two to understand that the primary and fundamental purpose of marriage is not companionship, not romantic love, not moonlit strolls on the beach, or any other balderdash but the begetting and raising of childrenlots of em, and starting soon. The optimum number is enough so that you can lose a few at the grocery store and not notice. Thats giving without counting the cost, and at that point, you wont care anyway. As a priest, my sacrifice for the good of the Church is celibacy. As a married couple, yours is to propagate childrenwho will incidentally annually propagate fierce storms of influenza in your house. If you havent already studied up on communicable diseases and basic first aid for children jumping off sofas, Id do it now. But you will find children and their challenges to be the great tutor of not only the medical but the moral virtues.
Potential Husband: You mean, Im screwed?
Father OCounselor: In a manner of speaking, yes.
Potential Husband: Is it too late to enroll in the seminary?
We can thus improve Catholic marriages and alleviate the priest shortage at the same time.
In fact, we forget how inspiring parents confessions are to priests:
Penitent: Forgive me, Father, but I lost patience when my children used my wedding china as Frisbees, took my necklace and used it as a line and fishhook in the toilet, and took my toothpaste to give the cat a bath.
Priest (sotto voce): Thank God Im celibate.
Penitent: What did you say, Father?
Priest: I mean to say, why not just laugh about it? These years will pass all too quickly. And when theyre over, youll know why you have gray hair and high blood pressure. Now, a Hail Mary and an Act of Contrition, if you please.
So, let us step out boldly and fly the banner high. Say it proudlyUse NFP: It Doesnt Work! But babies sure as heck do.
H. W. Crocker III is the author of Triumph: The Power and the Glory of the Catholic Church, A 2,000-Year History; the prize-winning comic novel The Old Limey; and Robert E. Lee on Leadership. All are available in paperback.
I suppose this is funny, but I seem to be having one of my "no humor" days.
absolutely awesome... and hilarious... and true.
Can you privately send me the original link? I would like to print this out.
I'll post it here since the link doesn't work above:
Amen. Eight so far here, and counting...
I don't agree with it...but I still think it's pretty darn funny.
I guess you're right ... have to admire a guy who dresses his family in Confederate frou-frou. :-).
I think it's supposed to be a satire. It's a little funnier today than yesterday; must be the weather.
This was great! Thanks for posting it. Nice to know there are families out there not subscribing to feminist views.